SURGING Alaska tries to sustain its winning run in the PBA Philippine Cup against a dangerous Rain or Shine five as the two teams clash in the opener of a Wednesday doubleheader at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Both the Aces and Elasto Painters carry identical 5-2 (win-loss) records, although Alaska is hoping to make it six in a row in the 5:15 p.m. game in its bid to take solo second in the season-opening tournament.
Even with five straight wins to their credit, Aces coach Luigi Trillo said they can’t rest on their laurels since he expects Rain or Shine to bring its A-game against them, particularly on the defensive end where big men Beau Belga, JR Quinahan, and Jervy Cruz are expected to impose their dominance in the paint.
“We’re (Aces) doing well, but we need to follow it up because this is our chance to move up,” Trillo said.
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said Alaska’s super rookie Calvin Abueva is not the main player they are preparing for defensively, but the dynamic scoring duo of Cyrus Baguio and JV Casio.
“Wala naman masyadong binago sa defense na pinakita namin against Meralco. Masaya kami sa pinakita namin sa defense against Meralco,” said Guiao of Rain or Shine’s 106-81 demolition of the Bolts Sunday night.
“Pero against Alaska, sa tingin ko, ang key dito is to limit the effectivity of JV Casio because sa kanya nag-e-emanate ang offense ng Alaska. Si JV at si Cyrus actually,” noted Guiao.
Baguio currently leads the team in scoring with 17.29 points per game average, followed by Casio with a 15.43 points per game clip, including a high 40.8 percent efficiency rating from three-point territory.
Casio, last year’s top rookie pick, is coming off a 25-point performance in a thrilling 94-92 win over reigning champion Talk `N Text, which he torched for six three-pointers. He knocked down three straight threes during the Aces’ searing fourth quarter rally that allowed them to pull off the come-from-behind win.
“Our victory against Talk ‘N Text builds the character of the team. Mahirap `yung comeback win. Lalo pa itong mga upcoming games namin. The more we need to work hard para ma-sustain namin yung mga nagawa na namin,” said Casio, who’ll be a marked man against Rain or Shine’s noted defense.
Abueva, the 6-foot-1 forward picked second overall in the draft, has been making heads turn early in the season. The Aces are 4-0 since he joined the team as the former San Sebastian star averages 15.25 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.25 assists, and two steals.
But Guiao said he’s got enough big men in Quinahan, Belga, Cruz, and even off-the-bench players like Larry Rodriguez and Ronnie Matias to put a body on the high-leaping Abueva.
Meanwhile, reigning champion Talk ‘N Text (6-1) takes on the on-and-off Petron Blaze (3-4) in the 7:30 p.m. main game.
The Tropang Texters, less than a week removed since suffering their first loss of the season against the Aces, look to bounce back against a Boosters team that has been in a transition of late.